Campaspe Country House, Woodend review: Time with a quiet achiever

Read our writer's views on this property below

Bruce Elder indulges in the peaceful elegance of a 1920s manor and its grounds.

When a hotel is trying to cater for both weekend leisure guests and the lucrative conference and wedding markets, it can become easily confused.

It is a great compliment to Campaspe Country House that, because of genuinely caring staff and attention to detail, it caters effortlessly for all.

Set on 15 hectares , with two acres (0.8 hectares) of elegant gardens designed by the great Edna Walling, Campaspe House lies up a quiet laneway on the outskirts of the Macedon Ranges village of Woodend.

It is a gracious country home with spacious, but never ostentatious, rooms; extensive areas of handsome wood panelling; and an elegant entrance featuring beautiful glasswork.

The property, so solid and a quintessential expression of affluent rural Australia in the 1920s, was built for Scottish emigre and local grazier Alexander Goldie in 1927.

The current owner, a specialist Singapore accommodation company, purchased it in 2008 and has turned it into one of Australia's most sophisticated rural retreats.

We enter via the tree-lined red gravel driveway and are welcomed and taken into the lounge room for an afternoon cup of tea (there is always a variety of teas available in the two lounge rooms). In winter, open fireplaces offer wonderfully soporific heat (one of the lounges has a touch of decadence, with leather couches and a stag's head above the huge fireplace); in summer, cool breezes and shade from the mature trees provide relief.

We have purchased the Weekend Retreat package. It includes a "grazing menu" and we are asked by email before we arrive whether we want it on the Friday or Saturday night. We opt for Friday evening and are served an antipasto of local produce: salmon, turkey, prosciutto, olives, glorious local and French cheeses, a warmed tomato with Roquefort cheese, grilled aubergines, crackers and bread followed by strawberries drizzled in chocolate, gluten-free orange cake and sublime chocolate mousse with berries.


Our Manor Room (Room 4), upstairs above the lounge room, is a reminder of how the owners have carefully maintained the relaxed essence of the house. It is a true "Edwardian" experience complete with a short walk down the corridor to a small bathroom (only a shower and washbasin, nowhere to put a bathroom bag) and a separate toilet. Why so small? Well, it was built nearly a century ago. These are the original upstairs bathroom facilities. The large bathroom is downstairs and now used as a men's and women's toilet for the restaurant and lounges.

The excellent king-size bed more than compensates for the limitations of the bathroom. Although we are usually early risers we sleep until 9am and rise for a leisurely breakfast with fine coffee, fresh juices, excellent rhubarb (from the garden) and yoghurt. There is something delightful about watching the chef, scissors in hand, wandering across to the vegetable garden to snip herbs to garnish meals.

There is no bain marie here. Every meal is a la carte and the breakfast menu offers no fewer than five main-course options - eggs Benedict, eggs royale, eggs florentine, ham and cheese omelet and pancakes with honey and caramelised seasonal fruit. As well there are boiled, poached, scrambled or fried eggs with bacon, smoked salmon, roasted field mushrooms and thyme-baked roma tomatoes.

This is a destination for relaxation. Take a walk around the lake, wander through the gardens, sit under the trees or on the leather lounges, play billiards, go for a swim or, most tempting, have a massage.

The massage, which my partner describes as the best she's ever had, is by Brian Wilson. His spa and massage company, Ellenis, has a guests-only facility at Campaspe as well as a boutique day spa in Kyneton.

"That was the best" is a common phrase when you stay at Campaspe House.

There is nothing like wandering around a formal Walling garden to lighten the spirits and refresh even the most exhausted city worker.

For a moment, as I sit under the mature trees in the garden quietly reflecting on the beauty of the home and the setting, I feel as if I am Bertie Wooster on one of those infamous weekends in the Berkshire countryside.

I quietly thank the higher forces that there is no ferocious Aunt and no Gussie Fink-Nottle to disrupt the peace and stillness. And as a nod to author P.G. Wodehouse's idyllic world, Campaspe House has a seemingly endless supply of meticulous Jeeves-like staff eager to cater to the guests' every wish.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.


Campaspe Country House

Address Goldies Lane, Woodend

Perfect for A relaxing weekend getaway within easy driving distance of the city.

Price Bed and breakfast ranges from $222 to $303 a double a night. There are three levels of accommodation: 16 Courtyard Rooms (modern, motel-style, upmarket); two Manor Rooms (in the old house) and The Cottage (two-bedroom cottage attached to the main house).

Dinner, bed and breakfast weekend packages in a Courtyard Room cost from $385 a double, Manor Room $405 a double and The Cottage $515 a double.

Bookings Phone 5427 2273; see

Getting there Drive north from Melbourne on the M79 (Calder Freeway) for 52 kilometres, exit onto the C792, drive 6 kilometres, turn left into South Road and right into Goldies Lane. It is a comfortable 50-minute drive from Melbourne or 40 minutes from Tullamarine Airport.

Verdict 18.

Wheelchair access Yes — but only for the Courtyard Rooms and The Cottage.

The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.

All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for by Traveller.